Conference play is in full swing for every team that falls into the O26 category. It’s a new season of sorts. We’ll see teams that set themselves apart from the rest of their leagues, thus thrusting themselves into the NCAA Tournament at-large conversation. Then we’ll see other teams crumble, taking themselves out of the big picture. It’s time for the contenders to separate themselves from the pretenders, so let’s take a look at a few of the O26 teams that either helped or hurt their at-large cases during the past week of action.
To be honest, there weren’t many O26 teams that really boosted their credentials this past week. Sure, Nevada has had a nice couple of weeks by starting out 4-0 in Mountain West play before Tuesday night’s loss to Boise State. But the Wolf Pack’s lackluster non-conference slate — complete with losses to Cal State Bakersfield, Pacific, Morehead State and Nebraska-Omaha — really remove them from the conversation. George Washington picked up a nice home win against VCU as well, but that loss to La Salle on January 9 prevented the Colonials from turning in a big week.
Saint Louis (14-2). There was only one O26 team that really helped itself last week. Saint Louis went entered the weekend with a gaudy record but didn’t have much meat on its resume (10 RPI 150+ wins). That all changed after the Billikens traveled to Dayton and picked up a huge road win. The 67-59 victory on January 11 handed SLU its first top-50 RPI win of the season, as prior to the victory over the Flyers, the Billikens’ best win was a 17-point drubbing of Indiana State (RPI #65) at home. Now SLU’s 14-2 mark finally has something to stand on. Boasting a #33 RPI doesn’t hurt either. The two losses are to Wichita State and Wisconsin, a pair of top-five teams. The Billikens are now at home for four of their next five games — the one roadie is at Duquesne — meaning SLU should enter the toughest part of its schedule with a 19-2 mark. Not too shabby. Then comes games at Saint Joseph’s and La Salle before a home date with Virginia Commonwealth, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet.
Projected seed for now: #9